Local dance enthusiasts founded Richmond Ballet in 1957 as a performance outlet for students in local dance programs. It existed for almost 20 years as a small, civic company until 1975, when The School of Richmond Ballet was founded. The School sparked the evolution from a student company to the professional company of today.
In 1980, Ms. Stoner Winslett became the founding artistic director. In 1984, Richmond Ballet became the first professional ballet company in the Commonwealth and was designated "The State Ballet of Virginia" in 1990 by then Governor Wilder. In 2000, Richmond Ballet moved into a newly renovated state-of-the-art facility at 407 East Canal Street in the heart of downtown Richmond. Today the Ballet reaches nearly 100,000 people annually in communities throughout Virginia and beyond with a professional repertory that includes 55 original works, educational and outreach programs, and a thriving school that serves more than 600 students.
Richmond Ballet's mission is to awaken and uplift the human spirit, both for audiences and artists.
- It is dedicated to the promotion, preservation and continuing evolution of the art form of ballet, according to specific aesthetic and institutional values established by the vision of the artistic director and supported by the Board of Trustees. Richmond Ballet strives to keep meaningful works of dance alive and to produce and foster new works that remain true to these values.
In pursuing its mission, Richmond Ballet has become one of Richmond's finest arts and educational institutions, and it has gained national recognition as one of the country's premiere dance organizations. Thousands of Richmonders are entertained and inspired annually by more than 50 performances of six major productions, including The Nutcracker – a cherished holiday tradition.
The company also performs on tour throughout Virginia and in other U.S. cities, and made its debut appearance at The Joyce Theater in New York City in the spring of 2005. Richmond Ballet returned to The Joyce Theater in April 2007 as part of a tribute to American master choreographer John Butler. In 2008, the company made its third New York appearance in four years, performing three of Jessica Lang's works during a special event at Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts celebrating her choreography. The Ballet's performance repertoire includes works of enduring value - the classic ballets of the past, significant works of our time, and new works that reflect a variety of modern influences.
The professional company employs 19 full-time dancers and five apprentices. These dancers come from around the world and have helped earn Richmond Ballet critical acclaim. The executive director of Dance/USA says Richmond Ballet is "a jewel among U.S. dance companies", and The Washington Post calls it "a company to which dance fans everywhere ought to pay attention." During Richmond Ballet's second engagement in three years at The Joyce Theater, The New York Times rated the company as "highly recommended."
Many of Richmond Ballet's professional dancers, apprentices and trainees are alumni of the School of Richmond Ballet. The School plays a critical role in Richmond Ballet's mission and has become an important educational asset for families throughout Virginia. It enrolls over 700 students - ages 3 to adult - at its downtown Richmond location. The School celebrates serving students of all ages and imparting a love of dance to thousands of individuals throughout Virginia and the nation.
In addition to formal classes in its studios, Richmond Ballet has educational outreach programs, which reach thousands of area children through partnerships with elementary and middle schools. Since 1993, the Minds In Motion program has grown from serving one school to 19 schools and has drawn praise from students, parents, teachers and school administrators. It is a yearlong program that teaches fourth-grade students discipline, dedication and self-awareness by leading them through a series of choreographic movements, which must be memorized and expanded upon in each class session. Another successful outreach program is the lecture-demonstration series, which sends professional dancers into schools where they combine entertaining performances with educational and inspirational lectures. The series exposes children to the art world and stresses the importance of discipline, teamwork and communication.